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So my native language has a word whose definition is

a person who has become a public sector employee through a nepotistic relationship or political party affiliation, normally without the required skills or qualifications for that position.

I was trying to think of a word in English which at least partially covers this meaning. All I could think of was a sinecurist, but does anyone have any other suggestions? Preferably something a bit more informal and derogatory.

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  • For reference, there has been a similar question asked in the past, but it wasn't answered. english.stackexchange.com/questions/206939/…
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 29, 2021 at 23:13
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    Could you tell us what the word is, please?
    – Tuffy
    Commented May 29, 2021 at 23:43
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    Where I come from they call those people "patronage workers" and they are employed at "patronage jobs."
    – Robusto
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 1:20
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    You could say that he was a 'political appointee'. That doesn't quite carry the same implication of corruption or personal incompetence but still hints that normal recruitment procedures have been bypassed.
    – BoldBen
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 4:45
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    @BoldBen All the members of the President's Cabinet are political appointees. I think it just means people who are appointed rather than elected.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 17:46

3 Answers 3

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There is no exact translation for this word. You are probably referring to the Croatian uhljeb:

Uhljeb’, which derives from the Serbian word for bread and cannot be directly translated into English, was coined in the early 2000s in Croatia.

It usually describes an employee who is appointed to a position for which they are not competent or have no professional qualifications. (balkaninsight)

You will find this term included in this list of Croatian 13 phrases that can’t be translated, only lived

The closest English term is nepotism, which Wikipedia describes as follows:

Nepotism is an advantage, privilege, or position that is granted to relatives and friends in an occupation or field. These fields may include but are not limited to, business, politics, academia, entertainment, sports, fitness, religion, and other activities.

But nepotism is a phenomenon, not a person. There is no other word than sinecurist, already mentioned in the OP.

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  • While nepotism is close in meaning to what the OP has in mind, it does not, or at least not as strongly as sinecurism, imply that the position involves very little real work (relative to the privileges it carries).
    – jsw29
    Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 18:51
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A placeman at least in the UK is "a person who is given an official position as a reward for supporting a politician or government" (Oxford Learners Dictionary).

Merriam-Webster qualifies it to "especially in 18th century Britain". But it is still used in British news media:

Chris Grayling has denied that the chief inspector of railways is a “government placeman” after a union described the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) as a “servile shambles” (Southern rail crisis: Grayling backs regulator described as 'shambles', The Guardian, 6 Jan 2017)

And in a letter to the same newspaper:

The real culprit who should be in the frame for all of this is Blair's placeman at transport at the time, Lord MacDonald, the transport minister. (Letter, Vincent Stops, The Guardian, 28 May 2002)

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I'd suggest "sycophant" (a "'yes' man." A "yes man" is a person who always answers "yes" to their supervisor's desires, whims, or decisions, even when they're wrong.

If you want to get a bit more informal, a "suck up" or a "kiss up," is a person who always tries to please a supervisor. Both terms are derogatory, because they imply kissing or sucking somebody's rear end.

A supervisor is a person higher-up in corporate hierarchy or rank. Imagine climbing a ladder, and a supervisor or boss is farther up on the ladder than you are. You would normally stay far enough behind to avoid bumping into that person's behind. A kiss up or a suck up would be willing to kiss that rear end.

That's where we come to the term that's even more derogatory: a "brown noser" describes a person who is such a kiss up or suck up that, using the ladder analogy, they're willing to crawl up the ladder of success, even if it means putting their face right in a supervisor's behind, and getting their excrement on their nose.

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  • While these remarks introduces more brown imagery than expected, the OP role is filled not by the worker's flattery but the hiring nepotism. Commented May 30, 2021 at 1:36
  • @YosefBaskin, good point. How about "lackey?"
    – user20568
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 1:38
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    More like lucky. The nepotee is nothing more than the recipient of a favored status and did nothing thus far to prove the expected lackeyness. It's a cushy job, not a tushy job. Commented May 30, 2021 at 1:44
  • @YosefBaskin You make a good point. There's probably no English slang term or a "one word definition" that best suits what the OP asks.
    – user20568
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 1:52

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